White House Goes to the Top to Secure Network Prime Time

By Chris Ariens Comment


WaPo’s Howard Kurtz has a fascinating story about what lengths the White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel went recently to secure network time for the president’s news conference.

Rather than calling ABC, the White House chief of staff phoned Bob Iger, chief executive of parent company Disney. Instead of contacting NBC, Emanuel went to Jeffrey Immelt, the chief executive of General Electric. He also spoke with Les Moonves, the chief executive of CBS…

Kurtz writes, “Some calls had little impact. Emanuel reached GE’s Immelt, a member of Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, after learning that NBC chief executive Jeff Zucker was traveling. But Immelt told him that it was Zucker’s decision, and a subsequent call to Zucker yielded an agreement that NBC would provide live coverage.”

And beyond the CEOs, what do the network news bosses think about Obama’s potential over-exposure?

Paul Friedman, CBS’s senior vice president tells Kurtz the networks “absolutely” feel pressured to carry the news conferences. “It’s an enormous financial cost when the president replaces one of those prime-time hours. The news divisions also have mixed feelings about whether they are being used.”

Mark Whitaker, NBC’s Washington bureau chief, says Obama “is at risk of overexposure.”

“We would feel better” if White House officials “were approaching us with the sense that they had something new to say, rather than that they just wanted to continue a dialogue with the American people. There are other ways of continuing that dialogue than taking up an hour of prime time,” says Whitaker.